How to talk to your children about rape

The idea of Rape Awareness is a problem because it focuses on something negative that creates fear, anger, rage and more negativity.

If we want our girls (and boys) to grow up safe, then we need to make a huge shift as a country, a shift into positivity; a shift into focusing on what we want and not what we don’t want.  Most people, when they think of the word “rape” will experience a mixture of negative emotions. Is this what we want to be programming our children with? Negativity and fear?

It is likely that your kids have been exposed to posters, TV or radio ads, and there is a good chance that this will bring up a number of questions.  So how do you answer these?

The trick here is to answer in a way that does not incite fear in your child and to answer in a way that is appropriate for their age and level of maturity. My most basic advice would be keep your answer short and non-emotional. As an example, “Rape means that someone is having sex with someone else who doesn’t want to have sex. This is against the law and these posters are just up so that people know that they have rights and can report it to the police.”

The key to not making something an issue is in your attitude and tone of voice. Discuss it calmly and simply without getting worked up or nervous. There is no need to go into all the horrors of rape and women’s rights and other emotional issues. Just provide the facts and leave it at that.


What we should be focusing on is raising children who are confident, who love themselves, who are empowered, sure of themselves and their rights in the world. Break the cycle of rape and protect them from it’s ravages  by telling your children that you love them – unconditionally, always and forever. When children grow up loved, feeling safe, heard and cared for, then this cycle will dissolve. When I speak of children, I mean ALL the children in this beautiful country.  For YOUR child to have a good life, ALL children need a good life.

If you want to eliminate rape in this country then stop focusing on what you don’t want (rape) and start focusing on what you do want (a happy, safe, healthy society with happy, safe, healthy kids). Let’s switch off the news, stop buying the papers that sell negativity, encouraging us to focus on what we don’t want.  There is absolutely no need for children to be exposed to the news.

Let’s stop chatting about crime in the school parking lot, let’s stop moaning about the fate of this country and let’s get into the habit of looking for ways to uplift and inspire those around us – particularly the kids.

Let’s do away with Rape Awareness Campaigns and replace them instead with Confidence Building in our Youth Campaigns.

Click here to find Protective Behaviours, an NGO dedicated to the goal of creating a safe environment for kids and adults.

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Mia Von Scha

Mia Von Scha

Mia Von Scha, Transformational Coach, motivational speaker, children’s author, student to two Zen Masters (aka kids), avid cloud watcher and lover of life.

16 Responses

  1. Dankie vir die artikel ek besef dat ons met die kinders moet praat en hulle bemagtig maar wat my bekommer is dat hulle nog meer nuuskierig sal wees en allles op die proef sal wil stel veral omdat daar soveel flieks is wat maak of dit alledaags is. Sal die kleintjies wat so graag geheimpies wil hê nie omdat mamma of ouma daaroor gepraat het , nie openlik met ons sal wil praat nie juiis omdat ons hulle gewaarsku het en dink dit is hulle skuld. Ek kyk maar na die onskuldige en brose kinders BID DAT DIT NIE MET ONS KINDERS SAL GEBEUR Dit gebeur mos altyd daar ver. Nee ons moet hulle inlig.

  2. Yes I agree that our children must receive unlimited love and reassurance with positive input all the time. Unfortunately there is the other side of the coin…., our government who refuses to punish people – set an example and you will see that the crime rate will drop….dramatically…that is what should happen. what we need to do besides feed our children only positive is outvote this useless government and take charge of our children's future. STATISTICS ABOUT CRIME IN THIS COUNTRY IS HORRIFIC.WHY DON'T WE ALL STAND TOGETHER BESIDES BEING POSITIVE AND DEMAND PUNISHMENT FOR MEN WHO RAPE OVER AND OVER….I am in a business where I train ladies… a number of them after being raped reported the incident to the police station where they were told to undress so that the police officer could make sure that she was raped! AGAIN I ASK WHAT HAS HAPPENED TO JUSTICE….BRING IT BACK AND ONLY THEN WILL THE TRUE PROBLEM BE SOLVED.

  3. I know that to be positive is so powerful… all our lives, and we need to keep that as the first priority. The other side of the coin is our government who is doing absolutely nothing about punishment and therefore it becomes a common thing to rape. I am in a business where a number of my students have been raped and when it gets to the police station in some instances the policeman on duty has asked the rape victim if he can inspect her physically and make sure she is telling the truth….WHAT HAS HAPPENED TO PUNISHMENT AND THE GOVERNMENT TAKING ACTION FOR A CHANGE…SOMETIMES TRUE PUNISHMENT IS ALL IT TAKES FOR PEOPLE TO REALIZE THAT THERE IS A LINE….yes keep on feeding children positive things, but will that make the authorities wake up and deal with the criminals who do it over and over again…..unfortunately we live in a country with a crime rate that tops the world record!

  4. Being a person who hates watching or reading the news because it affects me so badly, I still don't see how being sheltered will help my baby if some sick bastard wishes her ill. I have a feeling that you have not been molested, raped or abused in any manner? So while I knew that I was loved unconditionally and completely, if only I was more confident and positive, nothing bad would have happened?
    Take your child to the police station where women and children are reporting something that ripped their lives apart, take your child to cheer up the victims of rape while they are in hospital after date rapes, rapes during attacks and tell them to love themselves and the whole universe, I am sure that it will be an uplifting thing you can do with your child. Rape is something a child needs to understand so that when it should happen to them, they can tell the person who loves them unconditionally and get the help they will need. Rape is real of the society we live in and it is not getting better just because we want it to, it will take work from everyone and in the meantime I want my child to be able to tell me if anybody even makes her vaguely uncomfortable or scare her. If you really want to uplift the society we live in, help the women who are not being heard, help fight for higher sentences for rapists, help the police catch the bastards who take a child's innocence, then you can talk and start the wonderful campaigns to promote confidence building. Or try and get our Government to start those programmes in our poorest schools where abuse is a daily occurence. They don't even have to read or hear the news, they are the news! I know my post might come accross negatively to you, but I have been a part of this fight, I have been victimised and I am only standing because of love and support, but it did not change what happened. Empowerment starts by knowing yourself and being in a position to fight for yourself and yes, learning to love and accept yourself.

  5. I have to agree with Nicole's views – keeping our kids sheltered from life and the news in general (local or international) won't help to build or empower them to be positive agents of change in this life – I also thought that as usual, articles like this tend to gloss over the real issues so while I enjoyed some of the content I was dissapointed.
    For me – as a parent of 2 girls and a boy ( aged 12 and 10) – I have started talking about Rape with my kids. I started with asking them if they knew what rape means. It was interesting to note that even with all the media and noise around my kids were not clear about what it actually means. My definition and approach was as you suggested Mia – factual and very to the point. I then went on to explain to them especially my boy that he too would one day be a man and probably a father and that real men protect women and children, not hurt them. My girls then piped up that they would also make sure that he would would not be a target of rape while they were around – they had got my point! Watching or being a by- stander is as bad as doing the deed itself and I am confident that if my kids are every confronted with something like this that they would do their utmost to ensure it did not happen or find help immediately. I have also approached our school headmistress as I saw some very disturbing BBM CHAT's between 12 year old boys and girls where the term RAPE is used so loosely I felt it necessary to ask the school to bring up the subject of rape and what it actually means. Fortunately she listened and within weeks the older kids had talks from Rapewise to address the issue.
    I would like to see some guidance and positive points on teaching our boys especially the skills to deal with conflict and anger situations and that it is not OK to hurt the opposite sex, or anyone for that matter. We know too that most rapes happen in the family or acquaintance circles so our kids need to be very aware of what is OK and what is not. Parents need to be parents again and we MUST get more involved with our children. For us as a family we have dinner together around a table every night – no TV and no distractions. The conversations that come about and the daily updates I get from my kids are the best time of the day for me. I believe that open conversations is the starting point to empowering our kids and to help to make the change that we are all so desperately seeking in our communities and our country. Lastly, try Sunday School – biblical principles of love and 'doing to others as you would have done to you' is wisdom in action….

  6. Rape is fundamentally about exerting power over someone/something because of personal feelings of impotence/powerlessness/hopelessness etc – for me this indicates a societal problem, one of relations between people, so I disagree that we should switch off the news or put away the paper in the hopes of shielding our kids from reality. This choice is only open to some anyway (and not because they love or care for their children any more than the rest, but simply because they have the means, the resources to do so). If a good life for my child is only possible if a good life for all children is a reality, then it is most important to acknowledge the realities of the world we live in and to make our children aware of these too – and through this empower ourselves and our children. Only from the point of acceptance of what IS can anyone hope to begin to make a change for the positive. Simply adopting a positive attitude and focusing on what we want seems a bit short-sighted, idealistic and selfish even. Ignoring reality is not going to make it go away or dissolve into something better. No amount of fantasy, illusion or wishful thinking can replace agency and effect real change in society as far as I am concerned. Yes, let’s focus on what we want, but before we can do that we must know what we are dealing with, what we are a part of in a broader sense – being a responsible (parent/person) means giving due credit and importance to issues like rape. To refer to (women’s) rights as an emotional issue is just plain wrong and there are no plain facts either – we know newspapers sell sensationalism often, but then perhaps it is better to teach our children how to read, interpret and make sense of the world, rather than to attempt to sensor what they read. We need to teach our children understanding, not just of themselves, but of society too.

    1. The most important point raised about ALL our children I feel was rather glibly dealt with. How to raise your kids to love themselves and be confident is too 'easy' I think. How do we effect change outside of our homes, families and immediate communities by simply looking inward and being positive?

    2. Hi Nicole and thanks for your response. I am in no way saying that wishful thinking is going to change the situation – what I am saying is that inciting fear in your kids is not part of the solution. I absolutely agree that society as a whole needs to take action and that measures need to be put in place to deal with the kids not getting love/confidence/ at home (assuming they even have a home). Watching the news and getting worked up about it does not change the situation – taking action does. And this action starts in our own homes and spreads from there.

    3. thanks Mia, but I still don't understand your suggestion that there is no need to expose children to the news.

    4. Nicole, if you must expose your kids to the news, do it like this… let them be exposed to local news only. There is nothing more disempowering than hearing about disasters on the other side of the planet that you can do nothing about. Start with your local Caxton paper (Melville Northcliff Time or Rosebank Gazette etc) – that way if there is something going on in your neighbourhood that is problematic you can help your child to make a real difference – collect toys and books for a local orphanage; meet up with the head of your local community policing forum and ask if the kids can run a fundraiser to support them etc etc – I'm sure if you did some brainstorming with your child you could come up with many ways to help out in your own area and your child could feel the real impact that an individual can have by taking some action. In this way the news becomes a starting point for change rather than simply a way of inducing fear, anger and helplessness.

    5. we actually don't own a television and I agree with what you say about getting involved and engaging with what is happening at a local level, but issues like and related to global warming, class and politics I feel children should be introduced to. My 10 year old son has been asked to bring newspaper articles to school for assignments too, so I think it is impossible to cut the news out of our lives. Besides, I think how one frames news and media for children is important and knowledge of disasters on the other side of the world can be empowering and encourage problem solving and a sense of connectedness which I personally value. I would hate for my kids to grow up sheltered and ignorant to the risks, the dangers and the realities of life outside of our family and immediate community for the sake of a positive outlook. Eventually they will have to face these things and I would rather they don't feel cheated/mislead by me or overwhelmed and unprepared.

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